The elven woods are home to the elves and their allies. Not many dwarves or half-orcs live there. In turn, elves, humans, halflings, and half-orcs are hard to find in underground dwarven cities. And while nonhumans may travel through the human countryside, most country folk are humans. In the big cities, however, the promise of power and profit brings together people of all the common races: humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves, half-orcs, and halflings.
CHOOSING A RACE
After you roll your ability scores and before you write them on your character sheet, choose your character’s race. At the same time, you should choose a class, since race affects how well a character can do in each class. Once you know your character’s race and class, assign your ability score rolls to particular abilities, alter those abilities according to race, and continue detailing your character.
You can play a character of any race and class combination, but certain races do better pursuing certain careers. Halflings, for example, can be fighters, but their small size and special features make them better as rogues.
Your character’s race gives you plenty of cues as to what sort of person he or she is, how he or she feels about characters of other races, and what his or her motivations might be. Remember, however, that these descriptions apply only to the majority of each race’s members. In each race, some individuals diverge from the norm, and your character could be one of these. Don’t let a description of a race keep you from detailing your character as you like.
Your character’s race determines some of his or her qualities.
Find your character’s race on Table: Racial Ability Adjustments (see the next page) and apply the adjustments you see there to your character’s ability scores. If these changes put your score above 18 or below 3, that’s okay, except in the case of Intelligence, which does not go below 3 for characters. (If your half-orc character would have an adjusted Intelligence of 1 or 2, make it 3 instead.)
For example, Lidda, a halfling, gets a +2 racial bonus on her Dexterity score and a –2 racial penalty on her Strength score. Knowing this, her player puts her best score rolled (15) in Dexterity so that it will increase to 17. She doesn’t want a Strength penalty, so she puts an above-average score (12) in Strength. Her Strength score drops to 10, which carries neither a bonus nor a penalty.
Each race’s favored class is also given on Table: Racial Ability Adjustments. A character’s favored class doesn’t count against him or her when determining experience point penalties for multiclassing (see XP for Multiclass Characters, page 60of the Player's Handbook v3.5).
For example, as a halfling rogue, Lidda can add a second class later on (becoming a multiclass character) without worrying about an XP penalty, because rogue is favored class for halflings.
RACE AND LANGUAGES
In a big city, visitors can hear all manner of languages being spoken. Dwarves haggle over gems in Dwarven, elf sages engage in learned debates in Elven, and preachers call out prayers in Celestial. The language heard most, however, is Common, a tongue shared by all who take part in the culture at large. With all these languages in use, it is easy for people to learn other languages, and adventurers often speak several tongues.
All characters know how to speak Common. A dwarf, elf, gnome, half-elf, half-orc, or halfling also speaks a racial language, as appropriate. A smart character (one who had an Intelligence bonus at 1st level) speaks other languages as well, one extra language per point of Intelligence bonus as a starting character. Select your character’s bonus languages (if any) from the list found in his or her race’s description later in this chapter.
Literacy: Any character except a barbarian can read and write all the languages he or she speaks. (A barbarian can become literate by spending skill points, see Illiteracy, page 25 of the Player's Handbook v3.5.)
Class-Related Languages: Clerics, druids, and wizards can choose certain languages as bonus languages even if they’re not on the lists found in the race descriptions. These class-related languages are as follows:
Cleric: Abyssal, Celestial, Infernal.